Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Great Expectations

My friend Michelle spoke today about goals and expectations for her amazing little girl Hailey.  She talked about how she is learning not to underestimate her daughter.  Hailey is adorable and spunky, a true little hurricane who is doing some exciting things.

It can be so hard to know what and how much to expect of our children, those with disabilities and those without.  Raising our expectations too high can lead to disappointment and children that may never feel able to measure up.  Putting so much emphasis on achievement can take away the importance of the process, the learning and the little steps; things which can often be more valuable than the end result.  When all that we value is material success and ivy league educations, where do the rest of us fit in? 

But we also know that expecting too little can lead to... well, too little.  When society didn't believe children with Ds capable of learning, they weren't given the opportunities for education.  When our society didn't believe them capable of integrating into society, they were locked away, and worse.  So expectations have to rise... don't they?

We know that by raising our expectations of people with Down syndrome and cognitive disabilities, we are finding people again and again rising to meet them.

On a personal day-to-day level, managing expectations is hard, too.  Sometimes the waiting, waiting, waiting for the slowest of progress keeps you questioning expectations.  Some are reasonable.  I know she will walk, even though it seems to be taking forever.

But there are other questions that are legitimate.  Like will she ever use speech as her primary communication?  There is a chance that she won't.  Will she ever go to college or get married?  Will she ever live on her own and manage money?  I really don't know.  Does creating these expectations put too much on us both?  I am hesitant to expect her to do these things, because I want it to be OK if she doesn't.  But I also don't want to limit her by putting my expectations too low.  

As my husband says, removing expectation is the way to go.  But is that really possible?  And if I stop expecting Cora to speak, to read, to communicate, to develop independence and pursue her own interests, will I stop supporting her growth in those areas? 

Or am I just over-thinking it way too much?  Either way, she is growing and developing.  Even when it seems so slow that I can't see it.  I can question these things all the live-long day, but I'm not sure if it really even matters.  The one expectation I can't seem to question is that she'll be amazing.  And there is no doubt that I believe in that.

Chill out, Mama!


  1. Sometimes as a mom, I feel like I take everything so personally. Like it would be my own fault if Owen doesn't do something, because I must have failed him in some way. I think it's really hard to take expectation out 100%, but I understand what your husband (my hubs said the same!) means. He isn't saying to expect nothing; he's saying let Cora lead you. And he's right. I have hard time letting go of the reigns, but I think that way is much better!

    And yes, she will be GREAT!!

  2. I think it's all about removing our expectations without removing the means and work required to achieve. Keep up the work and push her, but at the same time, let her decide when she'll do something. I truly believe that she and Gary, too, will achieve all that we want of them.

  3. I think Nick has the right idea - remove expectation - but like Jenny says, keep doing what you're doing as her mom. Keep loving her unconditionally. And Leah, she IS amazing, and she will continue to be amazing. Super cute picture! :)

  4. I think that knowing it is a possibility helps us to have goals to work toward. My mom always reminds that Kamdyn is showing me what she can do. I think she'll continue ie to do that as she gets older.

  5. I use to be afraid to set my expectations to high with Russell, I feared the disappointment I thought I might feel if he couldn't do something. But over the years I have decided that wasn't fair to Russell. What is fair to him is for me to allow him to show us what he is capable of doing himself, to dream big for him and try to help him achieve. And if he can't it's not the end of the world, but we can feel good knowing we put that effort in.

  6. Brilliant post! I think that all of us parents of children with special needs go through this--how much is too much and what is too little to expect. Sometimes I think that I have high expectations and then Ellie shows me something and I think that I underestimated her. Then I have this thought of "she should be doing this" and then I fear I put too much pressure on her. Michelle is correct--Miss Cora is showing you what she can do.

  7. "Chill out, mama!" I love that ;-)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!